SF Playhouse offers a sweet, satisfying Kiss

Nov 22

SF Playhouse offers a sweet, satisfying <i>Kiss</i>

San Francisco Playhouse puckers up and offers a nice juicy kiss for the holidays in Stage Kiss a delightfully daffy theatrical spin with a touch of real-life melancholy.

This is the first time we've seen Ruhl's play in San Francisco, but the whole Bay Area is alive with the sounds of Ruhl's empathetic, intelligent, often mystical take on life.

There's a reason Ruhl reigns over theater here (and across the country)...

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Crazy about Guirgis’ Riverside at ACT

Sep 10

Crazy about Guirgis’ <i>Riverside</i> at ACT

There's a crackling vitality on stage the Geary Theater as American Conservatory Theater opens its 49th season with Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy. The play is this year's Pulitzer Prize winner, which doesn't necessarily guarantee it will be an interesting play, but if you've seen any of Guirgis' previous work – produced locally by San Francisco Playhouse and Custom Made Theatre Company – you know that this is a muscular, compassionate and deeply interesting writer.

If Riverside isn't as gritty as some of his other work, it more than makes up for that with its fresh approach to the classic American dream-type play.

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Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s Rapture

Sep 05

Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s <i>Rapture</i>

There's an observation about Internet porn in Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company that is at once hilarious and trenchant. A college woman encapsulates the ease of access to porn this way: "Once you get directions from Google Maps, it seems such a hassle to unfold an actual map."

Generational differences and technology come into play a lot in Rapture, a crackling season opener for the Aurora. Gionfriddo is a smart, feisty writer who knows her way around a joke that always contains more than a laugh. She tackles the gargantuan issue of feminism and its evolution into the 21st century and comes through with a stage full of surprising, complicated characters having passionate, always intriguing discussions.

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Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to Church

Dec 06

Say amen – SF Playhouse takes it to <i>Church</i>

In many ways, John Patrick Shanley's Storefront Church, now at San Francisco Playhouse for a well-timed holiday run, is less about the battle between the material world and the spiritual world and more about finding the most personal of solutions to the stress and pull and darkness of life: being still.

In such a hectic world, stillness seems practically revolutionary, but that's where the Rev. Chester Kimmich (Carl Lumbly) finds himself: in stillness waiting for an answer or a way to cross the giant black hole that has opened up before him.

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Joseph’s Bengal Tiger prowls the SF Playhouse stage

Oct 06

Joseph’s <i>Bengal Tiger</i> prowls the SF Playhouse stage

The last time San Francisco Playhouse produced a play by Rajiv Joseph -- Animals Out of Paper in 2009 -- the young playwright was becoming one of the hottest writers in the country. TheatreWorks produced his The North Pool in 2011, just as his Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was preparing to bow on Broadway in a starry production that featured Robin Williams as the titular caged beast.

Joseph, with his Tony Award and Pulitzer nominations, has fully emerged as an American playwright of note and his work is back at San Francisco Playhouse to launch a new season, the second in the stellar theater on Post Street.

In Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Joseph has crafted a challenging war/ghost story that wrestles with the very notion of god (or, if you prefer, God).

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Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s Happy Ones

Apr 04

Life, death and a ’70s groove in Magic’s <i>Happy Ones</i>

At first the music is loud and fun. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" seems like the perfect audio accompaniment to a grown-up birthday party scene set in a Garden Grove, Califorina, suburban home, where the swimming pool gleams and the neighbors all swing with martinis well in hand.

Then there's silence. Tragedy strikes, and the SoCal dream life has no fitting accompaniment...until it does, and that sound comes from another part of the planet – Vietnam to be exact. There's a smattering of Creedence, of Paul Simon and Randy Newman. And when the good-time music returns, in the form of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime," but the "living the dream" moment has passed, and it's time for new songs and new chapters.

That's the story of The Happy Ones, an achingly beautiful play by Julie Marie Myatt now at Magic Theatre.

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